Reptilian Reversal; Gators Football Media Guide Features Crocodile on Cover

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

*******************CORRECTION August 3, 2003

Due to an editor's error, the habitat for the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus

porosus) was incorrect in a graphic on Page C-1 in Thursday's editions. It inhabits Australia, New Guinea and southeast Asia. The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lives in the Everglades, Florida Bay and Keys and the Greater Antilles and is an endangered species.

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So what is the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

One is on the University of Florida's football media guide. The other is the university's mascot.

Go Crocs?

Because of a production error, an olive green crocodile appears with a photo of Florida coach Ron Zook leading the team onto the field. The words "Florida" and "2003 Football Guide" also appear on the cover, but the word "Gators" is absent.

The reptile photo was purchased from a local company and UF spokesman Zack Higbee said no one in the athletics department noticed the company sent a picture of a crocodile instead.

"When you request an alligator picture, you think you're getting an alligator picture," Higbee said. "Bottom line, we thought we were getting an alligator."

Some differences between the two reptiles are subtle, but a crocodile has a lighter color and narrower snout than an alligator.

"It's not hard to tell them apart," said Henry Cabbage, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Even the teeth, which are prominently displayed on the cover, are arranged differently.

UF was looking for a certain "design element" for the cover, spokesman Steve McClain said, but none of the school's stock photography matched what the media relations staff needed.

The mistake was noticed last week by a booster, who called the school to report the discrepancy.

"Trust me, everyone in our office knows the difference between a crocodile and an alligator now," UF spokesman Mary Howard said.

With about 1.5 million alligators in Florida, Cabbage said state residents may be getting too comfortable with the large creatures. Last month, a 12-year-old boy was killed by an alligator while swimming in a river in Tavares.

"Some people almost adopt them," Cabbage said. "They give them names like 'Old Joe' and feed them hot dogs and marshmallows. That's not a good idea for an 800-pound animal with a brain the size of your thumb."

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed material to this story.

Staff writer Michael DiRocco can be reached at (904) 359-4500 or via e-mail at mdirocco@jacksonville.com.

MISGUIDED? HERE'S A CROCODILIAN TAIL OF THE TAPE

The Times-Union staff compiled a list of differences between an alligator and the reptile on the cover of Florida's media guide:

CROCODILES***ALLIGATORS

SCIENTIFIC NAME***Crocodylus*******************Alligator

porosus***mississippiensis

LENGTH***8 to 20 feet***10 to 15 feet

SNOUTS***Triangular***Broad, blunt

FLORIDA HABITATS***Everglades***Freshwater swamps,

marshes

ESTIMATED WILD POPULATION 200,000 to 300,000***More than 1 million

FEDERAL PROTECTION***Endangered species***Threatened species

PERSONALITY***Reclusive,***Can be aggressive,

can be aggressive*********especially in water

EATING HABITS***Fish, aquatic animals***Anything they catch

GUINNESS WORLD RECORD***Largest: 23 feet***Oldest: 66 years

(1912-1978)

MOVIES***Crocodile Dundee**********Gator (Burt Reynolds in

(Paul Hogan)***sequel to White Lightning)

TV SHOWS***Crocodile Hunter***Wally Gator (cartoon)

SONGS***Crocodile Rock***Gator Country

(Elton John)*******************(Molly Hatchet)

HIGHWAYS, BYWAYS***Crocodile Road in************Alligator Alley,

Marloth Park,***Interstate 75

South Africa

EATERY***Crocodile Cafe***Old Alligator Grill

in Burbank, Calif. …